Fred Astaire is one of films top dancers of all time with a career spanning 75 years. His unforgettable persona projected charisma, grace, precision, and elegance alongside his unforgettable top hat and cane. He could sing, dance, and move elegantly and masterfully. His memory for dance moves was impeccable, he could come back weeks after a shooting and still perform a complete dance step, just as it was done on film, with no step or flowing movement forgotten, in pinpoint accuracy.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska on as Frederic Austerlitz Jr.
Entered show business at age 4 ½ and later at age 6 ½ performed with his sister, Adele, for the first time in Keyport, New Jersey. He trained in the Alvienne School of Dance and the Ned Wayburn School of Dancing. He and his sister danced together in cabarets, music halls, and vaudeville houses all over the world until 1932 when Adele married and then Fred went on his own at the age of 33.
Had a leading partnership with Ginger Rogers in a total of nine movies.Marilyn Monroe
was also born in Omaha, Nebraska.
He choreographed his routines with strong technical control and rhythm.
He had very large hands and he would curl his middle two fingers while dancing to disguise them and he had his legs insured for one million dollars.
Audrey Hepburn said: "He had style. His clothes were always very casual, and terribly, extremely elegant, because he had such taste. Was he good-looking? I think so, because charm is the best looking thing in the world, isn't it?"
When Walt Disney
’s creation of Steamboat Willie in 1928, the first Mickey Mouse’s cartoon and the first cartoon with synchronized sound, critics came to see Mickey Mouse as both mixture of the underdog Charlie Chaplin
and the graceful flowing spirit of Fred Astaire.Martha Graham
once said: "Fred had an ability to surmount form and to seem to create at the same instant a new form, which is the mark of an intrinsic dancer. Alone or with a partner, his body was one with whatever he was performing."
Fred was 5'9", starred in 31 musical films, and had a career spanning 75 years. Other consummate professionals include Martha Graham
and Frank Lloyd Wright
who also worked for 75 years.
Was one of the first recipients for the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978. Other recipients have included Martha Graham, Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, George Burns, Katharine Hepburn, and Johnny Cash.
He once tap-danced on a table at the Magic Castle where Cary Grant would greet guests at the door, Orson Welles used to perform, and Frank Sinatra would sing. In fact, they still hold séances there for Howard Hughes.
Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame at 6756 Hollywood Blvd. Stars near by include Charlie Chaplin at 6751, Ingrid Bergman at 6759, Arnold Schwarzenegger at 6764, and Elvis Presley at 6777.
At age 78 after riding his grandson’s skateboard he broke his left wrist and was taken to the hospital. Following that occurrence he was inducted as a lifetime member of the National Skateboard Society and he remarked: "Gene Kelly warned me not to be a damned fool, but I'd seen the things those kids got up to on television doing all sorts of tricks. What a routine I could have worked up for a film sequence if they had existed a few years ago. Anyway I was practicing in my drive-way."
Fred Astaire’s car is at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.
Michael Jackson said: "Nobody could duplicate Mr. Astaire's ability but what I never stop trying to emulate is his total discipline, his absolute dedication to every aspect of his art. He rehearsed, rehearsed, and rehearsed some more, until he got it just the way he wanted it."
After recovering from breaking his wrist, in 1979 he once appeared on the TV show Battlestar Galactica,
On June 24, 1980 at the age of 81 and almost 26 years after the loss of his first wife, he married Robyn Smith, 45 years younger than he, whom he met while she was a female jockey racing for Alfred Vanderbilt Jr., the great, great grandson of shipping entrepreneur Cornelius Vanderbilt. Robyn was born August 14, 1944, in San Francisco and spent much of her youth in and out of foster homes, similar to Marilyn Monroe.
Received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from The American Film Institute in 1981. Other recipients include Orson Welles in 1975, Bette Davis in 1977, Henry Ford (1978), Alfred Hitchcock in 1979, James Stewart in 1980, Steven Spielberg in 1995 and George Lucas in 2005.
June 22, 1987: Ten days earlier he was admitted as “Fred Giles” to Century City Hospital because of breathing problems and a severe cold. Several times a day, his wife Robyn would kiss him on the check and say “I love you,” however due to the tube in his throat all he could do was smile. The cold became pneumonia and he died in Robyn’s arms at 4:25 A.M at the age of 88. Mikhail Baryshnikov said at his passing, "No dancer can watch Fred Astaire and not know that we all should have been in another business." Three days later his was buried in a private funeral without a memorial service in Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, California next to his first wife Phyllis who died September 13, 1954 of lung cancer, his mother, and his sister. On his tombstone it reads: “I will always love you my darling, Thank you.”